What do you think of this fantasy subway map of Austin? [MAP]

Austin Subway detail

With Austin having the third worst traffic congestion in the country and more than 700,000 folks expected to move here over the next couple decades, it might be time to finally think realistically about building some sort of urban rail to help ease the congestion of this fine city. Of course, Austinites always seem to want better public transit, but voters don’t want to pay the costs. The result, as noted in the recently-released 30-year Comprehensive Plan proposal for Austin, comes at the expense of our general public health and air. And although the Texas Legislature approved the Lonestar Line in 1998 to connect Georgetown to San Antonio via rail, little has been done to provide an effective solution to help commuters.

So it’s time to think big, folks. It’s time to let our minds wander a bit and dream up something that could last hundreds of years and help many generations to come. It’s time to consider effective solutions that people will use.

Thanks to Cavallari Stewart, we can imagine a world in which Austin already has a subway. The Massachusetts design firm started Transit Authority Figures, a side project that begin by fantasizing improbable solutions in smaller towns. They’ve recently branched out to larger cities, and wanted to share a draft of their subway map of Austin. Check it:

[Click image to see a zoomable map of Austin’s Subway System]

Austin Subway Map

I really love the thought they’ve put into this. Looking at this map, I imagine my morning commute going something like this: Walk to the Bouldin Creek subway stop, hop on the train, and after a short trip, I get off at the West 6th stop. Viola! Quick. Easy. No hassle. And how nice would it be to go out downtown on the weekends? Ot what about a family trip to Deep Eddy?

Here’s a close up:

Austin Subway detail

According to the key, the stops would stretch deep into the suburbs:

They want the maps to be as realistic as possible, so they’re crowdsourcing this draft. They hope to get feedback from the folks that would potentially use the subway, if it existed. Here’s Creative Director Rob Stewart with a little more:

This is our first draft of the Austin Subway. Our hometown was easy to map because we knew where the stops should be and where the lines should run (and it’s small). For Austin (big), we’ve been studying maps and traffic patterns and consulting friends. But it’s important to get feedback from people who really know and love the metro area.

The lines all run out to the suburbs so that it serves commuters as well as urban dwellers. We wanted to connect hospitals and airports, colleges and museums, shopping centers and public spaces. We also want to make sure there is plenty of local flare—places only folks from the old neighborhood might get—as if the subway had been built 100 years ago.

Ok, me first: For starters, Congress Avenue north of the river is just called “Congress Ave,” not “N Congress.”  Also, the Barton Hills stop seems like it might be a little too far east to service the neighborhood that lies west of Bouldin Creek, not north of it. And what neighborhood is Bailey Park?

What do you think of the map? Do the locations of the lines and stops make sense? Are there high traffic places or popular destinations along the lines that don’t have a stop and should? Or are there ways the stops or lines should be renamed? It’s the little details, things that only people from Austin would know, that make these maps endearing to the people that live here.

Let’s imagine this was real. What would you improve? Leave messages for the creators in the comments!


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About Chris Apollo Lynn

78704er, cyclist, part-time DJ, new media mad scientist, urban farmer, not a robot, ready for End of Days.

27 thoughts on “What do you think of this fantasy subway map of Austin? [MAP]

  1. Tim

    Too commuter-y. Check out South East Austin (Oltorf/Riverside Area) and West Campus. You take the two most dense zip codes in town and give them a single stop each? West Campus/Riverside Oltorf should probably actually be a distinct line.
    The authors obviously know very little about South Austin (as evidenced by the lack of any stops till Slaughter). South Austin should at the very least have a pickup for the light industrial around Friedrich, Dove Springs, and the apartments around Stassney and IH-35.
    It also misses most employment centers. Please let a fantasy map at least have subway lines to transit centers on 360.
    I think if you were doing a good subway map a great way to start would be to look at providing East/West connectivity since everything has traditionally gone North/South in Austin due to surface train lines complications.

  2. David L

    Yeah, in my fantasies about Austin I totally want to go to Pflugerville all the time. Because North Austin is sooo interesting.

  3. Kassie

    It would be helpful to see this laid out on a street map of austin. Obviously, the lines don’t run straight along highways, so seeing how they DO run would be great.

    Personally, I would LOVE a subway system. This is great because they do go all the way down to Slaughter.. its hard to get direct from there to other aspects of the city without the tedious commute.

    Look forward to seeing more of this!

  4. Ryan

    Agree with the need for more East-West routes, both north and south. Speaking only for north, 38th street is definitely a necessity, but 45th street and Koenig/Allandale/2222 are also heavily traveled routes.

    Also agree on the business centers not being extremely well represented. Braker? Parmer?

    Auditorium Shores is a bit far from Zilker. You have to be able to service ACL, Kite Festival, and all the other events at Zilker.

  5. Michele

    I agree with the person who said there need to be more stops in South Austin. It is criminal the way South Austin is ignored by all transportation developers. Traffic from Slaughter going north on MoPac is horrendous.

    There needs to be a stop at William Cannon, and at the 290. Also there are only two north/south lines?

    People who live south of the river have transportation needs also. Why are we always ignored?

    • Fan of Campbell

      Exactly! Houston just got 900 million from the Federal Government to build 12 miles of monorail. There is enough special interest behind monorail to make it happen, but unfortunately for the average commuter it just makes the traffic problems worse.

  6. @imanitalam

    Given that many students + teachers commute daily between the Austin and San Marcos and the constant road work on I-35, it would be nice to incorporate an express train between the two cities.

  7. Brian

    The map does a decent job of indicating which east-west streets will be hit by stations, but doesn’t indicate which north-souh streets will be served by the lines. It’s especially important to know which streets the blue and orange lines will be traveling down – in particular, whether Lamar and Guadalupe will be served.

    The E/W routes need to be better thought out. There especially needs to be an E/W route serving the UT area, running either along Enfield/MLK or 24th/26th/Manor.

    There isn’t a need for 2 downtown E/W lines within 3 blocks of each other. I’d kill the 6th street line and keep 3rd street.

    Instead I’d add a line on the south shore of the lake, running along Barton Springs west of Congress and along Riverside to the east. That would not only provide connectivity for ACL, but it would also provide connectivity for all of the apartment complexes on S Riverside.

    In general, subway stops should serve high-density areas (i.e., offices, shopping districts, universities, apartments) or in areas that can be rebuilt as high density.

    Speaking as someone who lived in ATX for 5 years, then in NYC for 24, and now back in ATX again.

  8. Brian

    It seems this map completely ignores the area south of 71 and east of 35… this southeast corner of Austin is a population dense area that needs more transit options and typically gets excluded from these sorts of maps even though a majority of the residents have to commute to their jobs and would benefit from the public transit infrastructure.

  9. James Camp

    I love the fact that this goes out to Manor – like many of the people who keep austin running (weird, even), I cannot afford to live in prime transit territory, which is why I disagree with the folks who call this too commuter-heavy. Look at successful transit towns like Washington DC and Boston and you find that many of their lines are subway in the city and above-ground-commuter-style-rail in the places where many of the working people live. You need both good urban density and commuter reach for a transit system to work.

    One understandable oversight that I’d live to see fixed: they hit the two name-brand university campuses in Austin but I’d like to see this fantasy subway also hit as many of the ACC campuses as possible. It would be so nice to board a train in Manor and step off (with a transfer or two, perhaps) at ACC riverside or ACC northridge, my lecture notes all prepped on the train (time better spent than scowling at traffic!). My students would doubtless appreciate it even more.

  10. Jono

    This would be a good third stage system(three levels of development before this version would come into being) I guess it would be nice to have more stops in south Austin, but Im not 100% convinced that it should go to far south. Maybe move the yellow down to parallel Barton Springs road, then follow Riverside out to the airport. Also Charlston place on the loop line shoud stop at Farwest. More students there and a large enough population around the area that would use the metro to get downtown (and easier access to mopac (north/south) for those who live in the allendale and the surrounding areas. Also no stop at the Long center or the stadium? There should be a seperate stop for UT and the stadium/Frank Erwin. Add a Green line that runs through south austin to 35th or maybe UT.

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  12. H L Newsom

    The airport is underserved. Extend the brown “loop” line as well as the yellow to the airport – give riders three different directions to get to/from the airport. This could also serve as a major hub for incoming auto traffic; riders drive in from the south and east, park at the airport/metro line hub, and ride into town. Regional rail should also work through this hub – hook up San Marcos-NewBraunfels-San Antonio, Belton-Temple-Waco on up to DFW, and the Houston corridor.

  13. Kyle Richards

    I’ve seen the new version, which includes the East/West line and a few additional stops before W Slaughter. I still think the South area is under served. Southpark Meadows is a huge shopping center at I-35 and Slaughter and there are numerous other businesses, workplaces, and communities not being served. Much of that could be solved by restructuring bus routes. One or two bus routes (made superfluous by the subway) could be moved south of Slaughter.
    I also agree with the suggestion to create a line to San Marcos. You could split the cost with the cities of Kyle, Buda, and San Marcos (and include Texas State in that conversation) since many of their residents/students enjoy shopping/working/studying here.

  14. Jeff

    I hate that I’m late to the party here. A friend just re-posted this via facebook, but I wish I’d seen it back when comments were still being taken.

    First, I notice they added a green line to the link that you reach if you click on the map here. Cool.

    Second, the biggest omission that I see (probably because of where I live and were I often grocery shop) is the same one that was omitted from the current commuter rail, despite the fact that it’s right along the route: Hancock Center. It’s a major bus hub and has the most prominent grocery store for the Hyde Park/North Campus/West Campus area! They seem to have stops just far enough away to make it difficult, with Hyde Park (probably near Duval and 43rd?), Mueller, Cherrywood, French Place, UT, and the newly-added-Green-line’s E Dean Keeton St stop.

    Other than that, his would be an absolute dream!

  15. Jake Claro

    Couldn’t help but think that this closely resembles how the actual Berlin subway and public transit system is set-up. Best transit system I’ve used, and the most logical service wise imo. Very cool.

  16. Karen

    I am so tired of fighting traffic! This map offers travel options to most areas of town which the current Austin trains don’t. I am sure the system would cost less if monorail was used instead of digging. Any transportation at grade level does not help with traffic.

  17. George

    I can’t believe no one is pushing for something that we need so badly. It’s like when I moved here 25 years ago the saying was ” If we don’t build it they will not come”!! That worked, Not! What do we need to do to get this going again? I know I probably wont be here when it’s built, but Austin is a great City, and a great idea like this would make it the best City.

    George T.


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